TRADITIONAL FOOD – Festive Season

It is far too late to write about traditional recipes for the upcoming festive season.

I have to admit that usually my month of December is just so busy that I don’t have time to investigate new recipes. I tend to rely on old favourites that I can cook with my eyes closed. Some of these old favourites are:  Pasta Con Le Sarde; baccalà cooked in various ways;  a risotto or pasta with squid and black ink with green peas; mussels; tuna steaks also cooked in different ways: Insalata Russa; grilled seasonal vegetables like zucchini, peppers and eggplants; and for dessert, there is either Zuppa Inglese with Arkemes (Alchermes) or a Sicilian Cassata., made with ricotta.

You will find all of these recipes on my blog.

This year I am in Adelaide for Christmas. I had given my family in Adelaide some options of what I could cook  for Christmas Eve, but they all asked for two old favourites –  Baccalà Mantecato and Caponata Catanese as part of the antipasti….. same old, same old.

The Baccalà Mantecato is from the Veneto region in Italy and something that was very common in Trieste (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) where my parents and I lived when I was a child.  The baccalà is soaked in water for 3 days, then poached in milk, bay and a couple of garlic cloves, drianed and creamed with extra virgin oilve oil. It is spread on crostini – bread brushed with oil and toasted. The crostini my mother made were toased in a frypan and never in the oven. Crostini made with polenta are also favourites… but who has the time?

In the photo below is the soaked baccalà.

The Caponata Catanese is from Catania in Sicily.  Unlike the Caponata from Palermo that is made with eggplants. This version is made with peppers as well as eggplants and the usual caponata ingredients of green olives, celery, a bit of tomato paste and the agro-dolce, (a sweet and sour sauce). This is topped with pine nuts and basil.

So let’s just share a recipe for Christmas, but remember that at this time of year it is hot in Australia (because it is summer), if it is winter where you are, you may not even consider cooking it. It is braised lentils cooked wit Cotechino…..Cotechino con le lenticchie.

Although I would never serve this at midnight as was customary in some parts of Emilia-Romagna where the dish originates, it is an interesting choice. The Cotechino is a rich seasoned pork sausage that I poach with the lentils. The thick  sausage is then sliced and served on top of a bed of braised lentils.

The green lentils that resemble the shape of coins are intended to bring you prosperity in the New Year.

COTECHINO AND LENTILS; NEW YEAR’S EVE and CHRISTMAS

New Year’s Eve Baccalà Mantecato

BACCALÀ MANTECATO, risotto

CAPONATA recipes:

THE MANY VERSIONS OF CAPONATE

CAPONATA Catanese (from Catania) made easy with photos

CAPONATA FROM PALERMO (made with eggplants)

CAPONATA DI NATALE (Christmas, winter caponata made with celery, almonds and sultanas)

A MOUNTAIN OF CAPONATA: two days before Christmas

Photos of the caponata cooked in Melbourne and brought to Adelaide. Once again I used my heavy large wok to cook each of the vegetables separately.

MARINETTI Filippo Tommaso, futurist, frequented a bar in Bologna

In Bologna I visited where Filippo Tommaso Marinetti hung out with his futurist friends and discussed the evils of eating pasta. I did not expect to find it to be part of a grand hotel.

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Cafe’ Marinetti is located in the Grand Hotel Majestic “Gia Baglioni”. It is an 18th-century palazzo across the street from the Cattedrale Metropolitana di San Pietro and only a 5-minute walk from the Towers of Bologna.

CFBEA013-5359-47D5-86F8-07AA09D4BDB0The hotel is decorated with Baroque details, expensive paintings and photographs of famous visiting celebrities….Frank Sinatra, Eva Gardner, Princess Diana, Sting, Bruce Springsteen and others.

C28BCA23-F038-4C67-ACC5-88A72257BAEC The hotel is very luxurious…when I was there there was a Bentley Ferrari and a sports BMW out the front collecting and dropping off guests.

0A5F4284-3E7B-454D-838C-57A58180EAE1Cafe’ Marinetti is frequented by well heeled guests as I imagine it was then during Marinetti’s time.

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But who was Marinetti?

And really why would I expect someone who had such strong views about pasta to be anything else but part of the well heeled set?

It is interesting to see that pasta features on the menu at Cafe Marinetti and there is no risotto.

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, one of the founders of Futurism in the early 1900:

ADELAIDE REVIEW OF ‘SICILIAN SEAFOOD COOKING

Bolognese recipe, from Great Italian Chefs.

My mother used to add cream rather than milk, and a little grated nutmeg.

BOLOGNESE RAGÙ

  • 300g of beef mince 85% fat
  • 150g of pork mince
  • 50g of unsalted butter
  • 50g of onion finely chopped
  • 50g of carrot finely chopped
  • 50g of  celery finely chopped
  • 125ml of red wine
  • 30g of  tomato paste, triple concentrated
  • 125ml of whole milk
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
Place a large thick-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Add the minced pork belly to the pot and cook until all the liquid from the meat has evaporated, then add the minced beef and cook until golden, stirring frequently. Transfer the meat to a bowl and set aside.
Add the butter to the saucepan and place over a medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until the onions are very soft and translucent. Finally, add the tomato paste and sauté for 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
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Return the meat to the saucepan, turn up the heat and pour in the red wine. Cook over a high heat for 2 minutes, then cover the pan and turn the heat down to low
Leave the ragù alla Bolognese to simmer very gently for at least 3 hours. The meat must not be excessively dry. Pour in the whole milk and cook for a further 40 minutes just before serving
Ragù alla Bolognese is very tasty when just cooked, but is even better the next day. Reheat the sauce over a very low heat with a little bit of milk and use it to season pasta.

……or tortellini or to make a lasagna.

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EMIGLIA ROMAGNA and their love of stuffed pasta

In a restaurant in Modena we met a beautiful elderly woman who was the mother of one of the three chefs of a fabulous restaurant in Modena and her daughter is the owner. It is often the case that mothers and skilled mature women are responsible for making stuffed pasta in restaurants. They are after all very skilled and practised  in this area having made it over many years at home.

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La signora comes the restaurant each morning to make the stuffed pasta –  tortellini  and tortelloni (the squares of pasta are cut much bigger). Both are closed and folded in the shape of a navel. The traditional fillings are usually made with ricotta, spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano and covered with a melted browned butter and sage dressing.

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In Bologna the stuffing the for tortelli and tortelloni is likely to be made of prosciutto, mortadella, roast veal and Parmesan.

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More often than not, stuffed pasta is dressed with a ragù….today one of us had a ragù  made with a mixture of …selvaggina, wild meats – boar, rabbit, maybe pheasant.

Tortelloni di Zucca have mashed cooked pumpkin filling. Nutmeg, crumbed amaretti and mostarda mantovana – pickled fruit in a sweet mustard syrup. I ate Tortelloni di Zucca in Ferrara. But you may be surprised to know that in Ferrara they called these Capellacci….little hats…..Capelletti like tortellini, are the smaller version and these are usually cooked in broth (brodo).

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And there are Ravioli.

The pasta for all stuffed pasta can be white (egg, flour and water) or can be green (spinach).

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In a restaurant in Bologna we ate ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach but in a restaurant in San Giovanni in Marignano the variation in the stuffing was ricotta and marjoram and the dressing was made with asparagus. It is after all spring in Italy, even if it is raining now in Bologna.